Multi-talented local artist Stormi Demerson knows the power of an idea
Stormi Demerson is a Dallas actress, poet, spoken word performer and visual artist. I met her while working on a theatre project in 2007, and at the time had no idea that she was also a painter. So, when Dallas Art Beat was launched and we reconnected on social media, I was excited to learn more about her painting. Her Facebook page, Petralk Art, describes her work as “poetry on canvas.” As a poet myself, I wanted to know how the two mediums served each other, or if the various mediums she works in contribute to one another. In our conversation about her artwork, we chatted about the nature of ideas, art as a reflection of shared experiences, and how different artistic mediums contribute to and partner with one another.
How and when did you start painting?
I just started painting. I'm not a trained artist, but a few years ago, probably 2003, I just decided to paint one day. I just wanted to try another outlet. I had all these ideas floating in my head and I knew I had to do something with the ideas. Theatre was great, but the ideas weren't leaving. The ideas coming to me weren’t anything I could put on the stage, and I just wanted to take it from the brain to paper- to something tangible - to get it out of my head.
What do you think happens to ideas if you don’t use them or get them out, as you said?
I believe that ideas go away if you don’t take action on them - almost like ideas are conscious in a way. If you don't use them, they'll find someone who will. Have you experienced that? I've always felt like that and I've seen it happen in my own life. That’s part of the impetus as of late, within the last few years to go ahead and move on ideas. The other thing - with regard to the ideas moving forward - I think it's because they have to happen, right? It's all energy.
It needs to happen. Art is here to change lives. And from my perspective, I think it's here to change us for the better. So, an idea comes through one person and, for lack of a better term, that person deposits their energy onto the idea. So, when it comes through that channel, it looks like this. If it does not come through that channel, the idea still has to happen because it has to get out into the universe. But when it comes through somebody else, it looks a little bit different, but it still has to be seen at that moment to affect the world in the way it's supposed to.
Are your paintings an expression of something that you're personally experiencing? Do your ideas originate from that space or are your paintings more commercial in nature?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I lost one of my best friends in September. And I wasn't able to create. I just wasn't. And now...the most recent painting that I did was out of that experience. When I looked at the painting, I thought it looked a little somber. I was thinking that I don't want to leave it like that because I don't want it to look like my pain. But then I decided that it's okay. Especially in this climate that we're in right now, and a lot of people dealing with anxiety and depression and everything, it's important to know that there's a reflection somewhere. That you're not alone in your process. So, I decided to leave the pain.
And a lot of my work also centers around the African American culture and our experience in the world. I want my work to uplift us and creating a visual presence that is positive. The representation in my artwork of the African American community is paramount.
I have a sketch that I did years ago of a Muslim woman. She’s wearing a burka and there are different buildings around her and one of the buildings is a lighthouse, but the Muslim woman and the lighthouse are the main focus of it. And so when I sketched that it had nothing to do with me, but more so about the Muslim community - regarding women in particular - how their voices are silenced, but so often they’re the light that leads us back.
Going back to when you first started painting - how did you develop your style, and did you find yourself self-critical at all? I didn't really give myself any boundaries because I knew that I was in a learning process. I knew that I didn't know everything. So, I just let things be what they would be. When I first started, I just painted for me. I learned to embrace the mistakes because there have been occasions where I wasn't intending for that paint to go right there, but it does something different and it’s interesting. I liken it to the rehearsal process and acting - it's all discovery. The rehearsal is my favorite part. You don't know what you're going to find and when you get into the process of being on stage and collaborating with other actors, the director, and the technical support, it gets turned into something different. So, when I first started painting, I didn't have a lot of room to be rigid because I didn't really know what I was doing. It’s a willingness to play, and a willingness to be flexible.
Stormi Demerson is an actress, poet, spoken word artist, and painter in Dallas, TX.